One of the more recent additions to the Common Ground Education Center is the Blacksmith Shop. It’s located where the Folk Arts demonstrations take place during the Common Ground Country Fair because a primary use is demonstrating traditional blacksmithing skills during the Fair. During demonstrations, several smiths use a coal-fired forge to heat steel red hot, then shape it with hammers into various products such as farm implements, tools, kitchen utensils, and hardware (like hinges and latches for doors).
There are demonstrations at other events during the year as well, such as the Low Impact Forestry Workshop in November, and Small Farm Field Day in July. The shop equipment helps with maintenance and repairs to MOFGA’s fleet of farm equipment. In the future, professional blacksmiths will teach small group classes in basic blacksmithing.
The shop building design is a typical New England structure. John Phelan, an amateur smith who has demonstrated many times during the Fair, developed the overall plan for the 12 x 16 foot shop. Michael Beaudry, a Master Framer who also demonstrates his skills at the Fair, specified the joinery. MOFGA’s forest provided all the wood (mostly pine) for the building. Teamsters and their draft horses and oxen skidded the trees onto the grounds in preparation for construction of the shop. During the 2004 Fair, Michael began hand hewing of the trees into timbers for the posts, plates, braces, girts and rafters that comprise the timber frame. In the spring of 2005, Michael led a small crew in the creation of all the required frame elements. In the following July, 14 people joined the crew for a workshop weekend, hewing the last timbers and cutting the necessary mortices and tenons. They then assembled the bents and raised the timber frame. By September, the shop had a green steel roof and one of its wood plank walls. Several talented smiths demonstrated in the new shop during the 2005 Fair. The completed structure, though still in need of some equipment, can accommodate basic hand-forging.
Many people contributed to this effort through generous donations of time, energy, skills and equipment. We appreciate them very much and will post a plaque with their names in the shop.